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The Amazing Jack Cust, Our 1.000 OPS Man

Hi, my name is louismg, and I have a problem. I really like Jack Cust.

When he strides to the plate, I find the way he taps his bat on his left shoulder fascinating. From my perspective, in sections 112, or 114, or wherever the A's put me that day, I can see the stickiness of the pine tar lift his jersey ever so slightly between taps, as he methodically judges each pitch, ready to take it for a ball, or instead, to lash at it with a ferocity not seen here in Oakland since Mark McGwire.

Jack Cust, despite already being a legend on AN, came seemingly out of nowhere to swat 26 home runs last year, and was, without question, the A's best hitter.

In 2008, he has shown 2007 was no fluke. While he doesn't look like a 40 HR, 100+ RBI monster, he's very quietly posted a .889 OPS, leads the team in runs, with 34, home runs, with 11, and leads the entire American League in walks, with 50, in only 60 games.

Does he strike out a lot? Sure. But if you ask me, I'd rather see a guy who strikes out than one who routinely hits into double plays (cough * Zook * cough). And when he does connect, it can be tremendous. This last Friday and Saturday, in what were a pair of annoying losses to the Angels, I saw Cust hit an absolute bomb in both contests. The ball didn't just squeak over the fence, it was flat-out crushed. Only a healthy Frank Thomas can match Cust when it comes to sheer power on this team.

During yesterday's 8-4 win against the Yankees, Cust broke out of his "three true outcomes" mold, adding two singles and 3 RBI to his customary two walks. The Yankees couldn't get him out in any of his four plate appearances, and after starting off the year slow, he's been a force to be reckoned with. Cust posted a .303 average in May, and has a .300 average so far in June, with his OPS measuring 1.004 and 1.095 in each month respectively.

But Cust, despite the occasional bobble, is more than just a bat. I have a great deal of confidence in Cust's outfield work, from what I've seen live and on the TV. In yesterday's contest, we saw Jason Giambi beat the Giambi shift  by poking a ball to left field off the end of the bat. Cust put on his best Rickey Henderson impersonation and raced across the field to get to it, and came up short, but he never should have been expected to get the ball. While Cust might look like a slow, plodding outfielder, he's not, and he's improving with each game as he gets accustomed to being in the field and not solely used as a DH.

Just last Tuesday, we even saw Cust turn on the afterburners to beat out an infield single and win the game against the Tigers. He may never have stolen a base, but a lesser player wouldn't have been safe on that play.

So why this Custian valentine? Because sometimes, we don't know how good we have it. Cust's .889 OPS is good enough for 8th in the American League, and he's barely drawing more than the major league minimum. As A's fans, we're incredibly lucky to have this guy on our team, a guy who was days away from leaving MLB forever to play in Japan. So tonight... when you see Cust and the rest of the team take on the Yankees in an attempt to garner the series win, think about how this guy, making the minimum, has more home runs than A-Rod, who's making the maximum. Think about how this guy has as many walks as Jason Giambi and A-Rod combined, and think about how glad we are he's on our team.

Game time and hero worship is at 7:05 PDT. We'll be here.